I Love You to Death

When Parents Become Drug Use Enablers

Posted Oct 30, 2016

fotomaximum/Deposit Photos
Source: fotomaximum/Deposit Photos

She waited impatiently for the door knob to turn so she would know that her son had made it home safely. His substance addiction had been going on for more than a couple of years. She had tried everything in her power to save him from his own demise. Day in and day out she had been battling his battles and she didn’t know how much more she could take. As a result, her family was falling apart.

But what’s a mom to do when her oldest child was addicted to drugs? Was she supposed to sit by and watch him destroy himself before her eyes? She often blamed herself for what she had done wrong. Was she a bad parent? What would others think if they knew? Unanswered questions haunted her waking thoughts. And yet, her real problem was that she was an unintentional drug abuse enabler. In fact, she loved her son to death.

Across the nation, this story resonates within families where youth are addicted to drugs. Parents will often do anything to help their teen, even if it means unintentionally enabling a drug problem. Enabling can be one of the most destructive things someone can do to help a person who is addicted to drugs. And it’s often the people who love the addicted one the most that do the enabling.

Common examples of how parents can enable their teen’s substance abuse:

  • Loaning money (which winds up being used to support the drug habit).
  • Paying off debts.
  • Providing transportation to and from places.
  • Making excuses for drug influenced erratic behavior.
  • Completing academic assignments because your teen was too intoxicated to finish the work.
stokkete/Deposit Photos
Source: stokkete/Deposit Photos

Drug use is affecting too many youth. Approximately 1.8 million children ages 12 to 17 years need substance abuse treatment, and only 150,000 get the help they need. Over 50 percent of teens who develop a drug addiction have a co-occurring psychiatric condition. This supports the notion that teens who use drugs may be using them as a means to self-medicate and alleviate the symptoms associated with a more severe underlying psychological condition. 

As a concerned community, we need to find more effective ways to help teens who are at risk of developing substance problems. Teen drug addiction is a big problem that affects the entire family unit. We need to be vigilantly educating our youth about the repercussions of substance abuse. Much of this education needs to occur from the comforts of our own home.

The first step to protecting youth is prevention. We have to move out of the glass world and recognize that teens do experiment with drugs. So the “not my child” belief is erroneous. Research has shown that parents can be a strong deterrent to teen drug use. When parents openly communicate with their children about risky behaviors – they listen. So we need to speak with our youth about the dangers associated with drug use and how it affects the mind and body. An open, non-judgmental forum of communication can help teens know our expectations.

Aside from talking, we need to take it a step further and walk our youth through mock scenarios of what he/she would do if asked to use drugs. By practicing scenarios we can help youth come up with some lines and strategies to use if they are ever in a tempting situation. Believe it or not, when teens work through case scenarios it helps equip them for real-life situations.

mast3r/Deposit Photos
Source: mast3r/Deposit Photos

What if your teen is already using drugs?

If you suspect your child is already using drugs then get involved, immediately. Don’t wait until it is too late. Act now and go with your instinct. There are usually multiple warning signs of drug use. Don’t ignore the signs. Take a firm stance by getting your teen professional help. No level of precaution is too great when you are dealing with the life of your child.

If you missed the signs, and now your teen is dependent on drugs, it’s not too late. Don’t waste time guilting yourself. What happened is done, and now all you can do is move in a forward motion. Be on guard, drug dependency may cause your teen to act erratically, lie, deceive and manipulate situations. Don’t let the drugs deceive you. Proactively get your child professional help.

Unfortunately, drug addiction often comes with an attached stigma. Remind yourself that it is not really your son or daughter that you are up against - it is the drugs. You have something to fight for…the life of your child.

Love them, help them, but don’t enable them. The worst thing a parent in this situation can do is love their child to death...